Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become more porous, gradually make them weaker, more brittle and more likely to break. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, especially calcium, quicker than they are replaced. This causes a loss of bone thickness (that is they become more porous with a lower bone density) and can easily break. So a small fall or trauma that would not normally cause a fracture is more likely to result in a broken bone. These are sometimes called fragility fractures.
People with osteoporosis do not feel any symptoms until they break a bone. Bone breaks due to osteoporosis often occur in the spine, hip, and arms near the wrist. Breaking a bone can be serious especially if the bone is in the hip. This can impact the ability to walk and for older people can lead to a loss of independence and the need to go into a nursing home.
Around 1 million Australians have osteoporosis and 66% of Australians aged 50 years and over have low bone mineral density, also known as osteopenia.
Osteoporosis is more common as we age. 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men over the age of 60 will develop a bone fracture due to osteoporosis.
What can I do to prevent osteoporosis?
The three things required for bone health are:
- Calcium – the building block
- Vitamin D – the key to calcium absorption and strong muscles
- Exercise – to optimise bone mass and build muscle strength as studies show that bones respond to weight bearing or resistance exercise
People who do not get enough calcium from their diet or enough vitamin D from exposure to the sun might need to take supplements to help maintain healthy bones and muscles.
For more information on keeping your bones strong for life and osteoporosis visit the Healthy Bones Australia website.